DANVILLE — Now that plans for a bond issue are off, Vermilion County officials are taking a "triage" approach to the maintenance issues at the Vermilion County Courthouse, starting with its leaking roof.
Mark Cravens, buildings and grounds director for the county, said the courthouse roof is the top priority, and although it's not leaking as badly as it had been, there's still minimal leaking in a few problem areas.
"After the last big rain, we did have some water show up, but at this point, it's not urgent. It's not an emergency," said Cravens, who has been battling the leaking roof for at least a few years now.
Last year, county administration officials were planning to issue bonds in 2013 to generate revenue to replace the courthouse roof and overhaul various parts of the building at the corner of Main and Vermilion streets in downtown Danville.
The plan was to pay back the bonds, at least initially, with another new stream of revenue generated by a fee from the county's electric aggregation program. How much the fee generates depends on how many residents and small commercial customers were involved in the electric aggregation program. But the county learned late last year that its opt-out electric aggregation program would not be valid in the incorporated areas of the county, including Danville, so that greatly reduced the number of participants and subsequent revenue stream from the fee.
So, newly elected county board Chairman Gary Weinard said the plan now is to go ahead and use money out of the county coffers to replace the generally flat rubber-membrane roof over the courthouse and make plans for how to address other issues at the building, such as the aging boilers, elevators and fire alarm system.
Weinard said the roof is the No. 1 priority, because a building must have a roof, windows and heat, or a building will deteriorate very quickly. The county has done a lot of patching in the last few years to stop the major leaks, which have done some damage that's visible on one of the exterior walls of the courtrooms where panels are warped and chipping. But that and other items will wait.
Weinard said he's pursuing a longer-term plan for the other items, brainstorming how to address them, putting together a list of priorities, including determining what would be the next priority after the roof. Weinard said he and Cravens are working on that, and John Weaver, director of the public building commission, which maintains the Public Safety Building and Vermilion County Juvenile Detention Center, has contributed input as well.
Ideally, the county would like to go ahead with the bond issue, so it could address all the issues at once.
But Weinard said he doesn't have any way to fund a bond issue other than increasing the property tax, so he's going to look at other options, and one is fixing the other things as they can.
"That's more reactive, and I prefer to be proactive, but when you're at a point when you don't have a lot of loose money to work with, it must be closer to the vest," he said.
So Cravens and his staff are writing bid specifications for the courthouse roof this week after the county board's property committee gave its authorization on Monday, and once bids are in, the property committee will review them and make a recommendation to the full county board. Weinard said hopefully contractors can work the job into a spring schedule.
Cravens said once the roof is under control, he and his staff can move inside and start addressing issues, after it's been determined what they should address item by item.
He said the 1970s elevators are still functioning and passing their inspections, but replacement parts are no longer manufactured, so when a part is needed, the company that has the county's maintenance contract, Kone Corp., has to go hunting. Cravens said Kone has done a remarkable job locating parts, often when some other entity has remodeled or upgrades, but that stream of parts will eventually run dry.